Monday, August 31, 2009

Ottoline Goes to School - a fun, quirky graphic novel (win a free copy!)

My daughters love, love, love graphic novels. I've been exploring stories that are written as novels, but have lots of illustrations - a blend between usual fiction and comic strips. My kids love the way the pictures help develop the story; they love how visual these books are, how you can read them again and again, discovering something new each time.

Their favorite book this summer was Ottoline Goes to School, by Chris Riddell, the second in the Ottoline series. It's a great book for kids who like something a little quirky, a little mysterious, a little out of the ordinary. Best yet, the kind folks at HarperCollins have offered a free copy of Ottoline Goes to School - see below for details.
Ottoline Goes to School
by Chris Riddell
NY: HarperCollins, 2009. 176 pages
ages 7 - 10
Ottoline is an independent young girl who likes solving mysteries and exploring the world. One day, Ottoline meets a new friend, Cecily Forbes-Lawrence III. Both of the girls spend a lot of time on their own - in fact, they are basically orphans since their parents are so busy with their own lives. Ottoline admires Cecily tremendously - she's so confident and self-assured. So Ottoline sends her parents a letter asking if she can go to Cecily's school. At the Alice B. Smith School for the Differently Gifted, a mystery unfolds: it soon becomes clear that the school is haunted. Ottoline isn't fazed by the bizarre events, and she starts to investigate the source of the hauntings.
Ottoline reminds me of the characters in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, which kids love. She's confident, and figures things out for herself because she really can't rely on anyone else. There's a certain quirkiness to both of these series as well. They give kids a sense that they can solve problems on their own, that they are smart in ways that grown-ups are not. It would be great to talk with children about the gifts they think they would discover for themselves at the Alice B. Smith School for the Differently Gifted.

Above and beyond the story, Chris Riddell's drawings fascinated my daughters. They loved the intricate nature of his illustrations, the hidden surprises in the pictures. When I told my 8-year old that there are eight ghosts hidden in the drawings, she had to read the book all over again! My 10-year old liked Riddell's style so much that she started reading the Far-Flung Adventure Series (a series of novels written by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart) (PS: Amazon is running a Bargain Price discount on one of these right now).

If you're tempted by this, look at HarperCollin's website. You can look at the first two chapters in full.

Does this sound like something your child would like? Enter to win a free copy of Ottoline Goes to School. Leave a message, and let me know what other graphic novels or illustrated novels your child has fun reading. For an extra entry, become a follower (or let me know that you already follow) of Great Kid Books. For another extra entry, share the word - you can email friends with the link, post it on your Facebook account, or Twitter about it. Contest deadline: Saturday, September 12th.

The review copy was provided by HarperCollins. You can find this at your local public library or at Amazon.


  1. Hi Mary Ann,
    I think Lydia would love this Ottoline book! I hope I win a free copy! She doesn't read many graphic novels, but loved an Encyclopedia Brown recently that had lots of graphics (I know, not really a novel), then rejected the next one she found at the library because not enough pictures.
    I'm sharing your blog on FB and am about to forward the link to the new Madeleine librarian. Keep up the great work. --lisa

  2. Sounds like a great book. Maggie loves graphic novels and just started the Lemony Snicket books, so I think Ottoline would appeal. Great to find a graphic novel with the emphasis on novel. Maggie loves the Baby Mouse series, but those seem more like comic strips to me.
    -- Ellen

  3. i am going to read these books next!

  4. Jasmine, says, I would love to win this book for
    my daughter, please count me for this win.

    jsrogers at shaw dot ca

  5. The kid likes Lemony Snicket!

    I'm a follower!


  6. What a great book. I've never heard of it before but sounds ideal for my daughter (she's just started re-reading The Series of Unfortunate Events series). To be honest, I'm not aware of many graphic novels, except for maybe Bones (we've seen that in the library but haven't read it).

  7. This looks great! I've never heard of it before. We love Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Thanks for the chance to enter!


  8. Following!


  9. Tweeted!


  10. My neice loves to read, I don't think she has read anything like this before, and I think she would enjoy it.

  11. Hi Mary Ann,

    I absolutely think that the idea of the "transitional" graphic novel is something I should really work on adding to my classroom library for this school year. I'm already working on including more graphic novels but I can tell that this book would be a great addition because it is not only somewhat like a graphic novel, but also even more appropriate for girls than some others. I've been following your blog for a few months now and I'd love to win a copy!

  12. thanks so much for the interest! Remember that you can get another entry by simply emailing a few friends about this!

    The first Ottoline book is probably in your local library - check it out! Ottoline and the Yellow Cat.

    Please remember to post your email address. If I can't get in touch, I can't send the book!

  13. We haven't read any graphic novels, but this sounds like just the thing for us!

  14. Congratulations, Jasmine - and thanks to all of you for entering. Look for this fun book at a bookstore or library near you!

  15. Unfortunately, Jasmine did not reply to my email. So a new winner was chosen - congratulations, Lisa!